1. "Turkey 'faces choice between democracy and dictatorship'", closing your eyes and listening to his thoughts on Turkey's elections at the end of next week, you could almost mistake Cemil Bayik for a political analyst. He is not. In fact, he is one of the two most powerful figures in the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, whose 25-year war against the Turkish state has cost nearly 40,000 lives.
2. "Iraqi FM: Turkey massing 140,000 troops", Turkey has massed 140,000 soldiers on its border with northern Iraq, Iraq's foreign minister said Monday, calling the neighboring country's fears of Kurdish rebels based there "legitimate" but better resolved through negotiation.
3. "Will Turkey invade northern Iraq?", reports that Turkey has massed a huge military force on its border with Iraq bolstered fears that an invasion targeting hideouts of Kurdish rebels could be imminent. But how deeply into Iraq is the Turkish army willing to go, how long would it stay and what kind of fallout could come from allies in Washington and other NATO partners?
4. "Kurdish Politicians Harassed During Campaigns", the election campaign of the independent candidates supported by the pro-Kurdish DTP has been obstructed by police and gendarmerie. Particularly in the South-east, candidates have been prevented from putting up posters or opening election offices.
5. "A Test for The West In Turkey", this month's elections in Turkey have been described as a battle for the soul of the nation. But far from being a battle between secularism and Islam, as some would have us believe, this is really a conflict between the forces of freedom and democracy on the one hand and authoritarianism on the other.
6. "AI: Torture and Killings in Turkey Continue", The international human rights organisation AI has published a report on continuing torture, maltreatment and killings of civilians by law-enforcement officers. These crimes often go unpunished.
1. - The Independent - "Turkey 'faces choice between democracy and dictatorship'":
KORTEK / 9 July 2007 / by Nicholas Birch
Closing your eyes and listening to his thoughts on Turkey's elections at the end of next week, you could almost mistake Cemil Bayik for a political analyst. He is not. In fact, he is one of the two most powerful figures in the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, whose 25-year war against the Turkish state has cost nearly 40,000 lives.
Speaking from his mountain stronghold on Iraq's border with Iran, he says: "Turkey is faced with a choice between democracy and authoritarianism. This debate about secularism and the Kurds is political manouevring - just a means for the powers that be to hold on to their influence."
This year, 167 soldiers have died fighting the PKK, in a wave of violence that at one stage looked as though it might even prevent elections from taking place. Talk of delays has now subsided. But terror - rather than the economy or EU reforms - still makes up the bulk of politicians' campaign speeches.
With 30,000 soldiers massed on the Iraqi border since late April, rumours are rife in Ankara this week that the government might return from holiday to vote for military operations. Asked whether this is what he wants, Mr Bayik insists it is not. The PKK declared a ceasefire in November 2006, he says, and his fighters are only using their "right of self-defence". It is a strange way to describe the conflict. Half of the soldiers killed this year were victims of Iraqi insurgent-style roadside bombs. But the strangest thing about the presence of 2,000 PKK militants in Turkey is that they are not even fighting for an independent Kurdish state any more. Since 1995, they have been fighting for democracy.
That is still some way off in south-eastern Turkey, admittedly. This April, a court ruled that four policemen who shot a 12-year-old boy nine times in the back at close range had acted in self-defence and acquitted them.
But the situation now is an improvement on the past. Before 1991, speaking Kurdish in public was illegal. Now, says Orhan Miroglu, a senior member of a pro-Kurdish party who many Turks see as a front for the PKK, "nobody questions our right to have political representation".
Mr Bayik also acknowledges there have been improvements. But he points to the refusal of Turkey's leaders to take the PKK's ceasefires seriously as evidence that Turkey's European Union-backed democratisation process is a sham.
"We're not fighting because we are in love with war. We're fighting because we have been given no alternative", he says.
An Ankara-based terrorism specialist Nihat Ali Ozcan, thinks the group is nervous about losing its grasp now, with elections approaching and Turkey's Kurdish vote split between nationalists and supporters of the religious-minded government.
Since 1995, when it realised it could not defeat the army head on, the PKK has seen conflict as a political tactic, he says. "This time, its aim is to strengthen ties with its civilian backers." But there is another, much more pragmatic way in which the PKK has benefited from conflict: fighting is good for discipline.
"When you're fighting, all you think about is survival," says Zuhal Serhat, who joined the PKK in 1995, aged 15. "It was when we stopped that we started asking questions."
She is referring to the five-year ceasefire that followed the capture of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999. His jailing split the organisation, with 1,500 fighters leaving the organisation between 2004 and 2005. Many went freely. Serhat fled by night through Saddam-era minefields and was led to safety by local shepherds. With the army barely 62 miles away, security in the PKK's mountain base is tighter than in the past. Visitors used to be able to walk in. Now bags and clothes are checked closely.
Despite everything, though, the mood appears relaxed. "A Turkish invasion of Iraq would lead to the division of Turkey," says Mr Bayik. "They won't just have us in opposition. They'll have the world." Rubar, a Russian Kurd who joined the PKK in 1994, agrees. "We've never been stronger", he says.
The Kurds' campaign
* OCTOBER 1978 Proclamation of independence and formal establishment of the PKK.
* 1984 Beginning of a full- scale guerrilla war against Turkey from bases mainly in Syria.
* JUNE 1994 Bombs explode in two Turkish resorts, injuring 10 foreign tourists.
* NOVEMBER 1998 First of a series of suicide attacks, many carried out by female bombers
* FEBRUARY 1999 PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan captured in Kenya. Sentenced to death, but commuted to life imprisonment.
2. - AP - "Iraqi FM: Turkey massing 140,000 troops":
9 July 2007 / by Bushr Juhi
Turkey has massed 140,000 soldiers on its border with northern Iraq, Iraq's foreign minister said Monday, calling the neighboring country's fears of Kurdish rebels based there "legitimate" but better resolved through negotiation.
In Washington, a Pentagon official disputed the claim by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd from northern Iraq, and said satellite photos indicated no such troop buildup. A State Department spokesman also played down the allegation.
It was unclear where Zebari got the figures. If accurate, Turkey would have nearly as many soldiers along its border with Iraq as the 155,000 troops which the U.S. has in the country.
Zebari's comments came amid calls by Turkey's military for the government to give it the green light to carry out military operations in northern Iraqi against the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.
"Turkey is building up forces on the border. There are 140,000 soldiers fully armed on the border. We are against any military interference or violation of Iraqi sovereignty," Zebari said in Baghdad.
Turkey has been pressuring the United States and Iraq to eliminate PKK bases in Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq and has said it will carry out a cross-border offensive if necessary.
"Turkey's fears are legitimate but such things can be discussed," Zebari said. "The perfect solution is the withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the borders."
He added: "No one wants a new military conflict in the region."
He said there had been no "Turkey military violation until now," citing artillery shelling and Turkish surveillance overflights.
But in Washington, a Pentagon official disputed Zebari's assertion that troops were massing, saying no such movement has been picked up by U.S. satellites gathering intelligence there. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak on the record about the subject.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he would "steer you away from that number of troops being immediately along the border," and Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman repeated U.S. hopes that Turkey would not launch an incursion into Iraq.
"With respect to Turkey and the border region, they have legitimate concerns about terrorist activity of the PKK," Whitman told Pentagon reporters Monday. "But we're also encouraging them that an incursion into Iraq is not the way to solve this."
Turkey has long complained of U.S. inaction against separatist rebels, who have escalated attacks inside Turkey in recent months. Last week, Turkey's military chief asked the government to set political guidelines for an incursion into northern Iraq.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Friday confirmed that detailed incursion plans were ready.
Zebari said that his government cannot send its troops to secure the border with Turkey at a time when U.S. and Iraqi forces are fighting a deadly insurgency that has killed thousands of people.
"Our military forces are over-occupied with securing the streets and we do not have forces enough to open a new front. We do not want any conflict. However, no military violation has taken place till now," Zebari said.
Turkey has been battling separatist Kurdish rebels since 1984 in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. There has been a recent surge in rebel attacks, and 167 soldiers have been killed this year. More than 110 rebels were killed in the same period, according to the Turkish military.
3. - AP - "Will Turkey invade northern Iraq?":
ISTANBUL / 10 July 2007 / by Christopher Torchia
Reports that Turkey has massed a huge military force on its border with Iraq bolstered fears that an invasion targeting hideouts of Kurdish rebels could be imminent. But how deeply into Iraq is the Turkish army willing to go, how long would it stay and what kind of fallout could come from allies in Washington and other NATO partners?
All these questions weigh on Turkey's leaders, who have enough on their hands without embarking on a foreign military adventure. Turkey is caught up in an internal rift between the Islamic-rooted government and the military-backed, secular establishment, less than two weeks ahead of July 22 elections that were called early as a way to ease tensions in a polarized society.
A military operation could disrupt Turkey's fragile democratic process by diverting attention from campaign topics such as the economy, and raise suspicion about whether the government and its opponents are manipulating the Iraq issue to win nationalist support at the polls.
On Monday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Turkish television that Turkey would take whatever steps were necessary if the United States fails to fulfill its pledge to help in the fight against Kurdish rebels, but he appeared reluctant to order an invasion before the elections.
"We are seeing with great grief that America remains quiet as Turkey struggles against terrorism. Because there were promises given to us, and they need to be kept. If not, we can take care of our own business," Erdogan said. "We hope there won't be an extraordinary situation before the election. But there'll be a new evaluation after the elections."
The aim of any military push into Iraq would be to hunt separatist rebels of the Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, who rest, train and resupply in remote bases in the predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq before crossing mountain passes into Turkey to attack targets there. In recent months, rebels have stepped up assaults, adding to a sense of urgency in Turkey that something must be done.
A claim Monday by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd from northern Iraq, that Turkey had massed 140,000 soldiers on its border with Iraq rattled nerves on both sides of the border. Turkey's military had no comment, and the Bush administration said there has been no such mass buildup.
Although Turkish military commanders have said an invasion is necessary, it is difficult to know how prepared they are because many areas along the Iraqi border have been declared "security zones" and are essentially off-limits to civilians. There have been reports of Turkish shelling of rebel positions inside Iraq from time to time, and commandos are believed to periodically conduct so-called "hot pursuits" of guerrillas across the border.
Turkey also feels a special kinship for the ethnic Turkmen minority in northern Iraq, and Turkish military air ambulances on Sunday evacuated 21 people wounded in a devastating suicide attack in Armili, a town north of Baghdad, for treatment in Turkish hospitals. Turkey condemned the attack, but there was no indication that it gave impetus to calls for military intervention in the north to protect its ethnic brethren.
Turkey staged a series of major cross-border operations in the 1990s, involving tens of thousands of troops and jet fighters that attacked suspected rebels hideouts in the mountains. Results were mixed, with rebels regrouping after the bulk of the Turkish forces had left, even though some military units stayed behind to monitor guerrilla activities.
This time, Turkish forces could face the possibility of a confrontation with Iraqi Kurds who are emboldened by newfound autonomy since the downfall of Saddam Hussein in the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Some U.S. forces are also in the area, with American warplanes known to fly close to the Iraqi-Turkish border.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, acknowledged that part of Turkey's goal was likely to draw increased U.S. attention to the issue, but said the Turks were likely to act if attacks continued.
Cagaptay said there are already Turkish forces in Iraq, operating about 10 to 15 miles beyond the border, where the steep mountains turn into hills that are more easily navigable. He said monitoring this area was "the only way (Turkey) could control the border."
Cagaptay said Zebari's announcement that there are Turkish troops on the border was likely a sign that the Iraqi foreign minister takes the threat of further incursion seriously and is trying to draw international attention to the border games to eliminate the possibility that Turkey could execute raids under the radar.
Besides possible tension with the United States, another concern for Turkey is the impact that a military intervention might have on its troubled efforts to join the European Union. Accusations of human rights abuses by Kurds could slow the process even further; the Turkish military has already expressed frustration with what it perceives as European leniency toward PKK sympathizers.
Sinan Ogan, head of the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis, said one option was a limited air force operation, which would help the government deal with domestic demand for action. If ground forces do go in, he said, the military would want them to stay for at least six months to assess the impact of the mission.
"An operation before the elections will bring the ruling government more votes so they might be willing to allow such an operation," he said. "A clash with several soldiers getting killed or a bombing at an important spot might be the spark for a military operation."
4. - Bianet - "Kurdish Politicians Harassed During Campaigns":
The election campaign of the independent candidates supported by the pro-Kurdish DTP has been obstructed by police and gendarmerie. Particularly in the South-east, candidates have been prevented from putting up posters or opening election offices.
ISTANBUL / 9 July 2007
Since the beginning of their election campaigns, some of the so-called "A thousand hope candidates", independent candidates supported by the pro Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and some parties of the left, have been targeted by obstructions and bans.
Arrests, confiscations of flags and posters, closure of election offices are all examples of the kind of harassment candidates have faced. Below are listed some specific incidents:
22.06.2007 The General Staff registers a complaint against Mahmut Alinak, candidate in Kars (eastern Turkey). The complaint to the Ministry of Justice is based on a speech of 24 April 2007, in which Alinak said, "We do not want any of our young people to die, neither as soldiers nor as guerrillas".
22.06.2007 In Van (eastern Turkey), independent candidates Saim Kartal, Özdal Ücer and Fatma Kurtulan are met by gendarmerie officer Kemal Zeybel, who tells them that rallies are forbidden and then shoots in the air when the crowd does not disperse.
24.06.2007 Candidate Hüseyin Armagan, candidate in Bursa (western Turkey), is arrested by the gendarmerie for opening an election office without permission.
27.06.2007 Posters of candidate Serafettin Halis in Tunceli (eastern Turkey) are confiscated after three local peace courts decide that they incite hostility and hatred.
28.06.2007 Cevdet Konak, mayor of one district in Tunceli, is arrested after a speech he made at the opening of Serafettin Halis' election Office.
01.07.2007 When Bursa candidate Armagan uses the purple flags which represent the "Thousand Hope candidates" in an election Office opening, police confiscate the flags, arguing that they are illegal.
04.07.2007 In a district of Sirnak (south-east of Turkey), the flags of independent candidates are pulled down by plainclothes policemen, and candidates are told that they can only use the flags at rallies.
05.07.2007 In a district of Mus (eastern Turkey), gendarmerie officers forbid the putting up of posters and flags in villages, arguing that it is illegal. Furthermore, Kurdish music cassettes are confiscated from the vehicles.
5. - Washington Post - "A Test for The West In Turkey":
6 July 2007 / by Anwar Ibrahim
This month's elections in Turkey have been described as a battle for the soul of the nation. But far from being a battle between secularism and Islam, as some would have us believe, this is really a conflict between the forces of freedom and democracy on the one hand and authoritarianism on the other.
The outcome will decide whether Turkey continues down
the modernizing path it was set on some five years ago by the government
of the ruling Justice and Development Party or backtracks onto the path
where might is right and power is achieved through the barrel of a gun.
Will there be a resolution to forge a new consensus between state and
citizen that is at ease with Turkey's Muslim heritage and its secular
political culture, or will the forces of the military usurp the people's
right to choose their government and undermine the government's mandate
to serve the people?
Since the early 1980s, Turkish politics have been characterized by a strong state and a weak civil society in which individual rights were tolerated only if they conformed with the centrist vision. Elections throughout this period were overshadowed by draconian measures taken to stifle and subvert opposition groups across the political spectrum. But with the landmark parliamentary elections of 2002, these undemocratic practices seemed, until recent developments, to have been relegated to history.
Commitment to the democratic process represents a paradigm shift in Turkish politics through which the will of the people has been translated into sound economic policies, enhanced social welfare and greater integration with Europe. In stark contrast to the military's threats of intervention, Turkey's leaders have demonstrated clear resolve and commitment to reform.
The implications of a military intervention would be far-reaching and grave. One need not resurrect the sins of commission in Algeria. While constitutional provisions in Turkey mitigate against the possibility of a hijacked electoral process, the Turkish people would be unlikely to take such a move lightly if it did occur. We could expect negotiations with the European Union to immediately dissolve, much to the satisfaction of those governments in Europe that from the start have been bent on seeing Turkey excluded. The unprecedented growth that the Turkish economy is experiencing would undoubtedly slow. Ultimately, we could witness the collapse of the civilizational bridge being forged in Istanbul between East and West.
Also troubling would be the betrayed aspirations of Muslim democrats in Turkey and across the Muslim world. Turkey, like Indonesia, is widely regarded as a test case demonstrating harmony between Muslim politics and democracy. It is an expression of peace and development that has riveted Muslim interest and sparked pride internationally. Radicals would be sure to use a coup as evidence of the West's duplicity in calling for freedom and democracy in the Muslim world while turning a blind eye to authoritarian rule. Moderates would lose ground in a region beset by radicalism that is fueled by the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli crisis.
In the coming weeks, the true colors of the stakeholders in this drama will be revealed. As one of its closest allies, Turkey may legitimately expect that the West will lend no support, overtly or otherwise, to any attempts to derail democracy. Failure to demonstrate unequivocal support for Turkish democracy would be a categorical invitation to extremism, whether Islamic or secularist, to reign free. Sure, those who claim to represent the aspirations of the modern Turkish state may well succeed in toppling the current government, especially when they are buttressed by sheer military force. But this would be a Pyrrhic victory, for the price would be freedom and democracy themselves.
* The writer, a former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, serves as honorary president ofAccountAbility, an international nonprofit think tank that promotes accountability in business practices, civil society and public organizations. He also advises the People's Justice Party of Malaysia.
6. - Bianet - "AI: Torture and Killings Continue":
The international human rights organisation AI has published a report on continuing torture, maltreatment and killings of civilians by law-enforcement officers. These crimes often go unpunished. AI has prepared a list of urgent steps that need to be taken.
LONDON / 7 July 2007
Amnesty International (AI) published a report entitled "Turkey: No Justice for Torture Victims and Killings by Law Enforcement Officials". The report deals with the unpunished torture, maltreatment and killings of civilians by law-enforcement officers. AI also lists ways of improving the current situation:
Centralised data collection
* Centralised data collection: A centre needs to collect violations of human rights by security forces in an effective, up-to-date manner.
Measures of Prevention
* Mechanisms to prevent such violations need to be put in place: for instance, there need to be audio and video recordings of all interrogations in police and gendarmerie detention.
* The Additional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture needs to be ratified and applied. There needs to be permission for international institutions to visit detention centres unannounced.
* The intimidation of activists, lawyers and journalists monitoring human rights needs to end.
Independent investigations without delay
* Claims of human rights violations need to be evaluated in -depth and without delay by an independent, neutral institution.
* If there has been a killing by law-enforcement officers, evidence needs to be collected immediately and the prosecution needs to be called to manage the examination of the site.
* In cases of torture and maltreatment, the prosecution must insist on expert medical and forensic medical examinations, an examination of the site and testimonies taken from everyone concerned.
* Prosecutors must question the responsibilities of police chiefs.
* Law-enforcement officers who are accused of torture need to removed from office.
* Victims need to receive compensation and rehabilitation.
Faulty judiciary needs to be improved
* There should be no delay of court hearings.
* Officers who are called as witnesses or suspects, but do not appear in court need to be punished.
* If the court case is transferred to another location for "security reasons", the parties concerned and the lawyers need to be paid traveling and accommodation expenses.
* The Law on the Struggle against Terror (TMY), which allows for suspects to be arrested without the right to communication, needs to be changed.
* The right of law-enforcement officers to use deadly force needs to be in line with international standards; it is only justifiable when protecting another life and as a last resort.
* There should be no time lapse for torture cases.
Medical reports on torture
* The Forensic Medical Institution needs to be independent of the Minstry of Justice, both in procedure and in organization.
* Courts must take urgent steps for universities, hospitals and expert institutes to be able to present medical and psychiatric reports as evidence.
* Urgent steps must be taken for anyone in detention to undergo an independent medical examination.